Posted by: Gregoryno6 | December 1, 2012

Vampires in the cinema: here’s to the bloodsuckers who don’t sparkle, part three.

Part one

Part two

Before I go any further with the quality product, I’ll briefly examine the duds.

The mother of all dishonourable mentions goes to Dracula 3000.

Not related to Dracula 2000 in any way whatever, least of all quality of storytelling or intelligence.

D3K
I’ve been conned by some deceptive advertising in my time. But this Giger-ish piece of artwork is a truly outrageous example.

Dracula 3000 is a woeful puddle of sludge, made in an abandoned factory over a single weekend. A reworking of one chapter of the original novel puts Dracula on a spaceship a thousand years from now AND HE’S STILL WEARING THE TUX AND CAPE FFS! To say the script is lazy and awful is to assume that a script was actually written. This is one to avoid, especially if you thought Casper Van Dien was great as Johnny Rico in Starship Troopers. His participation in this – sorry, but I have to say it – his participation in this really sucks.

Save yourself the blinding indignation. I endured Dracula 3000 so that you wouldn’t have to.

And then there’s Van Helsing. An expensive and showy bastardisation of the vampire myth, it proves that a film maker can have millions of ideas to match his millions of dollars and still produce a flick that’s a maggoty bucketload of goat puke.

E F Benson’s Mrs Amworth is a very effective short story about a widow who livens up a quiet English village by day, and drains its assorted jugulars by night. The story appeared in the 1920s, and it’s rather surprising that no attempt was made to put it on screen until fifty years later.

Mrs Amworth has shown up on television and film; in neither case were the results successful. Glynis Johns played Mrs Amworth for a television series in the 70s. The episode was combined with two others to make a movie called Three Dangerous Ladies. It’s on youtube.

More recently a full-length version was made in America. The actress playing Mrs Amworth resembles Benson’s original character more closely than Glynis, but stretching the story over ninety minutes doesn’t work. There’s more terror in Virgil Finlay’s illustration than in both movies combined. You’ll find that, with the original story, here.

Well, that’s the trash binned. Let’s get back to the good stuff.

From Dusk Till Dawn is a crime flick that turns into a vampire movie. Mark of the Vampire, conversely, is a vampire movie that turns into a crime flick.

C'mon, boys, did you really think I'd leave you out?

C’mon, boys, did you really think I’d leave you out?

Some people watch King of Kings on Good Friday. I watch FDTD. It’s essentially the same story: a last supper, salvation, good triumphs over evil. With Salma Hayek in the role of Salome.

Right up until the sudden plot twist, about twenty minutes from the end, Mark of the Vampire had me on the edge of my seat. The plot didn’t make a whole lot of sense. But when Count Mora and his daughter Luna took their evening stroll, it didn’t matter. I was nailed to my seat.

If this link works correctly, you’ll be taken to the first appearance of the vampires.
The hammy acting of the other actors accentuates the silent menace of the Count and his daughter. And there’s that creepy moaning in the background…

Annex - Lugosi, Bela (Mark of the Vampire)_NRFPT_01

My final selection is the oldest film here, and also the most ambitious.

I just wanted to make a film different from all other films. I wanted, if you will, to break new ground for the cinema.

Carl Theodor Dreyer planned to release Vampyr in three versions: English, French, and German. The film rated a brief mention in Denis Gifford’s book on horror movies; a present for my thirteenth birthday, as I recall.  I’d quite forgotten about Vampyr until I discovered it in the Criterion catalogue. Movie restoration was scarcely dreamt of when I was a teenager. Once a film had its run in the theatres its only chance of an afterlife was on tv. Criterion’s 2-disc boxed set is typical of their high quality: an excellent transfer of the German version (subtitled), with a documentary about Dreyer – whose own life and career were anything but mundane – and other supplements. The package includes a small paperback containing the original script, crtical essays, and Sheridan Le Fanu’s story Carmilla, which was partial inspiration for Vampyr. (There’s also an unrestored version of the film available at the internet archive for free.)

Vampyr is one of the first and most memorable attempts to put dream logic on film. Like Cronenberg’s version of Naked Lunch, it’s often difficult to draw the line between dream and reality.

Room service with a difference.

Room service with a difference.

The main character, Allan Gray, is drawn to a house where a young girl has fallen victim to Marguerite Chopin. Marguerite was ‘a monster in human form’ who was refused the last sacraments. She became a vampire and has haunted the region for centuries.

Marguerite Chopin

She bears a striking similarity to a long-ago neighbour of mine. Especially that ‘monster in human form’ bit.

Marguerite racks up a body count that’s relatively low by the standards of contemporary vampire cinema, but in the end she gets what she deserves. Dreyer made very few movies after this. But Vampyr can be considered a landmark in horror film and in film generally. It builds an atmosphere of supernatural menace with disjointed logic and unsettling images. There’s a happy ending implied but Dreyer wasn’t interested in tying up the loose ends. He crafted a film that the viewer must accept on its own terms.

Got your own favourite vampire movie? Leave a comment below. This wasn’t intended to be all-inclusive and there are many films I’ve passed over.

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Responses

  1. Ho trovato il vostro blog su google e sto leggendo alcuni dei tuoi post iniziali. Il tuo blog e’ semplicemente fantastico.

    • Grazie. Date uno sguardo attraverso gli archivi, c’è molto da vedere.


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